From the beginning, Kevin Durant had all the power. He still does. But the thing about having power is knowing how and when to use it.
The Nets hired Steve Nash as the head coach Thursday and that led to an outcry, started by Stephen A. Smith on ESPN, about “white privilege.’’ Nash hasn’t coached at any level, and now he steps onto a contending team for his first job while black coaches who have paid coaching dues, such as Ty Lue, were left out? Lue has already won an NBA title as a head coach.
Well, there’s nothing wrong with that point, but Durant, the Nets star, was in position to get Lue the job in the first place. Or, he also is in position to stop the controversy on the team now by stepping up and saying that he had pushed for Nash, who worked in the Warriors’ organization while Durant was with Golden State.
Look, the players are in control in the NBA. They are playing in a bubble with the promise that they can send social justice messages. If having black coaches was something they considered important, then they could have made that happen.
The players are the ones who turned the bubble into a shrine for Black Lives Matter. That was their choice, their cause.
The irony: Players control the system that people are saying is racist.
They could have made Lue their cause. The Nets weren’t going to do anything without Durant’s permission. And that’s not to let his star teammate Kyrie Irving off the hook, because if he had strongly objected to Nash, then Nash wouldn’t have the job today, either.
The players don’t know how to use their power and would rather support Jacob Blake than Ty Lue.
That’s up to them, of course. And maybe the Nets shouldn’t care what Stephen A. Smith says about Nash if Durant and Irving approved. But Smith was railing about white privilege when the NBA players were basically responsible for it. Or at least they could have stopped it.
The history of player power in the NBA dates back to Bill Russell and the Celtics. Red Auerbach built a team of black players around Russell; in 1963-64, the Celtics had the NBA’s first all-black starting lineup. In the 1980s, the Celtics surrounded Larry Bird with what was likely the whitest team in the league.
As for Lue today, there are other job openings and the players can pressure owners about white privilege. If Lue matters to them, then he will get another head coaching job any day now.
Meanwhile, Durant — and Irving, too — should publicly defend Nash’s hiring. They have the power to end the outcry about it.